CH takes action on Arco dump site

The Arco dump site in relation to Cleveland Heights. Courtesy of Bob Brown.

The six-acre Arco Recycling dump, located at the corner of Noble Road and Euclid Avenue in East Cleveland, is packed with large amounts of construction debris. Concrete, wood, plaster, metal and brick from building demolitions throughout Northeast Ohio have been piling up since the dump opened in 2015.

The dump sits directly in the backyards of East Cleveland residents’ homes on Noble Road. They have complained about the dump site, not only because it is an eyesore, but because they are concerned that it could be hazardous to their health.

A report detecting the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas caught Cleveland Heights City Council Member Michael Ungar’s attention. “Would you want this in your backyard? Of course not,” he said.

Although the dump is located in East Cleveland, its presence just north of the Cleveland Heights border led Ungar and other council members to become concerned that it could negatively affect Heights residents.

Ungar contacted the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and the Ohio Attorney General’s office, urging them to act to have the dump cleaned up as soon as possible.

Arco claimed the site was meant for "storage, reuse and/or recycling in a beneficial manner of construction and demolition debris," but after an initial visit to the dump in June 2016, in response to residents’ complaints, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) requested that Arco reduce the mountains of debris.

At another visit in January 2017, OEPA found that the mountains of debris had grown, and there was very little recycling taking place at the site. OEPA determined in January that the site had to be shut down.

Jim Riffle, an engineer with Auburn Environmental, a business that provides environmental, health and safety consulting services, conducted private air tests on the site in January. He determined that the site was emitting two to three times the level of hydrogen sulfide gas that is considered safe by the EPA. Because the site contains large amounts of construction debris, it is also home to an abundance of two key ingredients for the creation of hydrogen sulfide gas: drywall and moisture. Even low exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas can cause serious health issues, according to the United States Department of Labor.

Since the closure of the Arco site in January, OEPA has conducted weekly air monitoring tests, which have not detected levels of hydrogen sulfide that would cause human health concerns.

Ungar spoke at a Noble Neighbors meeting on June 6 regarding the dump. He thanked multiple groups in the Cleveland Heights community, including Noble Road Presbyterian Church and Noble Neighbors, for bringing the issue to his attention.

“I heard from the Noble Neighbors loud and clear,” he said, “to take action.”

Brenda May, co-leader of Noble Neighbors, said, “We can't afford to ignore challenges in other parts of our region, assuming they don't impact us. We've got to work together to solve problems. When we do, we all will benefit.”

May praised Ungar for being “the catalyst that ignited the coordinated response from state, county and local authorities to bring funding and remediation to this site.”

OEPA has dedicated $6 million to clear the Arco Recycling site. The two-phase cleanup process is slated to begin in July.

In phase one, about one-third of the debris will be removed in 100 days, at a rate of 10 truckloads per hour for eight hours a day. Phase two does not yet have a set start date.

OEPA plans for any recyclable material from the site to be recycled, and for any non-recyclable debris to be dumped at an approved site in Oakwood Village, where it will then be leveled, sealed and consistently monitored.

Ungar mentioned that, during the removal process, there is a concern about "fugitive dust"—dust that can escape from the site as the debris is moved. He said that OEPA plans to keep dust closely monitored and controlled throughout the process by having the construction companies spray water to contain it.

OEPA plans to study the Arco dump site once all the debris is cleared, to determine if it can be repurposed. The foundation of the site is believed to be a large concrete slab from when GE Lighting owned the property.

Ungar plans to hold a meeting in the Noble neighborhood once the process of the debris removal is further along. 

Connor O'Brien

Connor O'Brien is a senior majoring in communication and minoring in English at John Carroll University. He is currently an intern for the Heights Observer.

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Volume 10, Issue 7, Posted 11:32 AM, 06.29.2017